Meet the Team

Lauren Czajka
Executive Director

Lauren joined the YouthRoots crew in 2013. Her background is in experiential education and she holds an MA in Human Rights from the University of Denver. Her favorite activity is doing anything outside with her husband and toddler. She loves working with inspiring youth who make the world a better place.

Lacey Books
Founder

Lacey’s long-standing passion with youth philanthropy began in high school in Sioux Falls, SD. She graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a BA in Neuroscience and went on to earn her teaching certificate. In 2010, Lacey decided it was time to follow her true passion, inspiring youth to act on their big ideas. Lacey enjoys spending time with her three daughters and husband. She also enjoys sailing, skiing, and hiking.

Erin Button
Program Coordinator

Erin joined the YouthRoots team in October 2018 after moving to Colorado from Chicago. She has a Masters of Nonprofit Management from DePaul University and over 8 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. During her free time, Erin enjoys reading, baking, and hiking with her husband and two fur-babies.

Alyssa Hornyak
Program & Admin Coordinator

Originally from Michigan, Alyssa’s love of the mountains brought her to Denver to pursue her Master of Social Work at DU. She completed her practicum with YouthRoots and transitioned to full-time in August 2019. She brings experience and a passion for youth empowerment to YouthRoots. Outside of the office, Alyssa loves hiking, traveling, and exploring Denver.

Alyssa Chavez
Admin Assistant

Alyssa Chavez is a part-time administrative assistant for YouthRoots while earning her bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Relations at the University of Colorado Denver. A YouthRoots alum, Alyssa has always had a passion for youth empowerment. At home, she enjoys spending time with her friends and her dog. Alyssa also has a love for traveling, reading, and movies. 

Alexandria Timoll
Curriculum Specialist

Alexandria's journey in the classroom started five years ago after graduating from Brooklyn College with a degree in Childhood Education and Psychology. She continued her education at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and earned her MA in teaching with a concentration on urban education. Her passion for urban education drives the work she does in the classroom, writing curriculum, and mentoring preservice teachers.

Susie Roman
Facilitator - Central Denver YouthBoard & Curriculum Specialist

Susie is passionate about empowering youth leaders and has a background in nonprofit program development and workshop facilitation. She has more hobbies than she can keep track of and loves spending free time with her partner, friends, family, and dog.

Lena McCain
Facilitator - Aurora RAISE YouthBoard

Lena has an MA in Clinical Mental Health from Naropa University with an extensive background in nonprofit management. Her drive and passions lie in the realm of interfaith relations and youth collaboration. She puts a particular emphasis on young peoples' discovery of personal values, leadership, and multicultural diversity. 

Aaron Earley
Facilitator - North Denver YouthBoard

Aaron earned his Masters of Social Work from the University of Denver while completing his practicum with YouthRoots in 2014. He is now a Program Specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado and serves as the North YouthBoard Facilitator.

Jeremy Katz
Facilitator - South Denver YouthBoard

Jeremy’s professional background is in non-profit social enterprise and youth leadership development. He moved to Colorado from San Diego to enjoy outdoor adventures in the Rocky Mountains. He currently serves as the facilitator of the South Denver YouthBoard.

Ashley Jaramillo
Facilitator - Northwest Denver RAISE YouthBoard

Ashley is the Student Events Coordinator in the Office of Student Life at the Community College of Denver. She creates opportunities for engagement through diverse and inclusive events. Ashley’s passion is to work with young people to create community and belonging.

Laura Landrum
Facilitator - Summit County Youth Connect

Laura is currently a full-time student at Colorado State University pursuing her MPH and MSW. She has a background working as a facilitator with Outward Bound, NOLS, and the Pennsylvania State University. When she is not studying, you can find her teaching skiing, backpacking, climbing, or mountain biking.

Kaleena Kovach
Facilitator - Douglas County YouthBoard

Kaleena has worked in nonprofits for several years, mostly in youth-organizations. She has a passion for civic engagement and currently works for New Era, registering high school students to vote. She grew up in Colorado and loves making a difference close to home.

Tierney Lain
Facilitator - Boulder 15 Forever YouthBoard

Tierney is the 15 Forever Facilitator and teaches middle school in Brighton, CO. She has a Master’s in Agriculture Education and has spent her career empowering people to discover opportunities to become more innovative, informed, and interesting.

Ann Kolbrek
Facilitator - Sioux Falls Youth Advisory Council

Ann is the facilitator for the Youth Advisory Council of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation which uses the YouthRoots program to empower youth to make a difference! She was in YAC with our founder when the idea of YouthRoots was planted.

Mack Neal
In-School Facilitator (Teacher at PREP Academy)

In addition to teaching at PREP Academy, Mack coaches football and basketball in the Denver area. Mack’s philosophy is to be a servant-leader of his players and students, influenced by his grandmother who taught and showed him what it means to do the right thing.

Karen Yi
Communications Coordinator

Karen Yi is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles and participated on the Douglas County Youth Board during high school. She started web design as a college freshman as a way to combine her interests in art and computer science. In the past, she has designed T-shirts, posters, banners, flyers, and murals for various school organizations. She hopes to open her own online store one day.

Board of Directors

Katie Payer
Chair

Katie owns Katie Payer Consulting, which provides clients with focused and high-quality support in creating engaging, thoughtful, and impactful programs to fill the void in events and company content. Previously, Katie was the VP of Communications at Young Americans Center for Financial Education. Katie graduated from Santa Clara University with degrees in marketing and communication. She resides in Denver with her husband, daughter, and son.

Tim Welland
Treasurer

Timothy Welland is the Development Manager of Palisade Partners, LLC, a boutique real estate development firm operating in Central Denver and Summit County, where he overseas many facets of Palisade’s development projects. Mr. Welland graduated from the University of Michigan with an A.B. in Economics and has lived in Colorado since 2007. 

Katie Peterson
Secretary

Katie Peterson is a Senior Principal in Accenture’s Communications and High-tech Strategy practice. Her experience includes consulting to software and telecommunications companies where she has helped clients in the areas of growth strategy, go-to-market strategy and merger integration.

Adam Sands
Board Member

Adam Sands is an Executive Vice President for FirstBank, specializing in real estate lending. He currently serves on the Denver Civic Ventures Board for the Downtown Denver Partnership and is an active member of multiple committees. Adam is also a Board Member of the KATA Foundation. Adam received his degree in Business from the University of Northern Colorado and a Graduate Banking degree from the Pacific Coast Banking School in Seattle, WA.

Brian Gonzales
Board Member

Brian is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Addiction Counselor dedicated to the growth and development of helping professionals, inclusive learning and community partnerships, and best practices for client and worker success. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs at the Graduate School of Social Work, and sits on various boards and committees at the school.

Janae Aasen
Board Member

Janae has her degree in Graphic Design from the University of Northern Colorado, and a master's in Nonprofit Management from Regis University. She has extensive experience in program management, corporate event planning, fundraising, and brand management. She is currently a full-time mom and volunteers in multiple community organizations. Janae enjoys traveling, bike riding, and sailing with her husband and two young daughters.

Jeffrey Kass
Board Member

Jeffrey is a partner and intellectual property trial lawyer at Lewis Brisbois. He earned his undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University in 1992 and his J.D. from the University of Toledo in 1995. Jeffrey is also an adjunct legal professor and has authored over 100 articles and a book on social, political, and legal issues. He currently sits on the board of the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado and Denver Delta, Inc.

K.C. Matthews
Board Member

K.C. holds a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering and is a registered Professional Engineer. He is presently the Traffic Standards and Specifications Manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation. K.C. is very active in the Denver Metro Area and has received numerous community service awards for his work. He and his wife of 25+ years, Mary, have three children (one a YouthRoots alumnae!) and one granddaughter.

Keala Gapin
Youth Representative

Keala is a senior at DSST: Byers High School where she’s an athlete and a student equity advocate - roles she takes seriously as part of her school’s founding class. She enjoys writing for her school newspaper and working in a tutoring program she co-founded. She is especially passionate about STEM education and encouraging others to become leaders in their own unique ways.

Kevin Graff
Board Member

Kevin is a Partner and CFO of Oakwood Real Estate Partners, LLC, a Denver-based real estate investment company. His career in real estate and finance began in New York after getting his BS in Business from CU Boulder. He also has an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management. Kevin now lives in Stapleton with his wife, Brooke, and their three children.

Lacey Books
Board Member

Lacey’s long-standing passion with youth philanthropy began in high school in Sioux Falls, SD. She graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a BA in Neuroscience and went on to earn her teaching certificate. In 2010, Lacey decided it was time to follow her true passion, inspiring youth to act on their big ideas. Lacey enjoys spending time with her three daughters and husband, as well as sailing, skiing, and hiking.

Melanie Zhou
Youth Representative

Melanie Zhou is a senior at ThunderRidge High School. She currently serves as the Co-Founder of Oasis Mental Health and Colorado FBLA State Vice President of Education. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, watching movies, and listening to music. Due to her passion for Oasis, mental health, and business, Melanie hopes to become a neuroscience entrepreneur illuminating the unknowns of the brain.

Miguel In Suk Lovato
Board Member

Miguel has a bachelor’s in Psychology and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado-Denver. He has worked directly with low-income and at-risk youth in various capacities. Miguel is currently a Senior Program Officer with the Daniels Fund, one of the largest private foundations in the Rocky Mountain region. At home, he enjoys watching Star Wars movies with his daughter.

YouthRootsMeet the Team